Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Night of the long knives".... campaign game report

...or, "The Death or Glory Boys run riot"...

You may remember that in the American War of Independence campaign that DG and I are playing, we had come to a juncture with a major engagement at the town of Carnine.

In campaign terms this was the big throw, the major gamble, as all effectives were present for both sides, and whoever won the game could reasonably claim the campaign victory conditions were theirs.

Orders of Battle:

In numbers terms then DG who was commander of the British troops had a significant superiority with approximately 88 points, the American forces commanded by myself hoped to bolster their significant lower numbers (65 points) with the use of some fieldworks that had been constructed during the campaign to cover the eastern approaches of the town....

The British order of battle comprised the following units - DG was light on cavalry (but not light enough!), but had some of the cream of the British army under his command - the Erbprinz Grenadiers (motto "Nunquam Lucror Pugna" :o) ) and my favourite regiment the Welch Fusiliers (in their fur fusilier caps - and yes, I know it isn't historical for this period/theatre before anyone thinks they need to tell me!):

New York Loyalist Artillery Light0 5
New York Loyalist Artillery Light0 5
New York Loyalist Artillery Medium0 5
16th Light Dragoons 1st (Half squadron - 1 base) +1 5
17th Foot+1 5
23rd Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers)+1 5
33rd Foot+1 5
71st (Fraser's) Foot+1 5
35th Foot (Royal Sussex Regiment)+1 5
Infantry regiment Erbprinz+2 5
Regiment Prinz Ludwig - 1st Battalion+1 5
Regiment Prinz Ludwig - 2nd Battalion+1 5
Regiment Prinz Ludwig - 3rd Battalion+1 5
Regiment Prinz Ludwig - 4th Battalion+1 5
Royal Irish Regiment+1 5
Total: 88 points +13 75

The American forces comprised:

New York Brigade
1st New York05
2nd New York05
New York Loyalist Artillery Light05
Rhode Island Artillery Medium05
Cavalry Brigade
Lauzun's Legion Hussars+15
4th Dragoons+15
French Brigade
Bourbonnais Regiment (1st. Batt.)+15
Bourbonnais Regiment (2nd. Batt.) +15
1st Militia Brigade
Massachusetts Militia - 1st Battalion-15
Massachusetts Militia - 2nd Battalion-15
2nd Militia Brigade
Massachusetts Militia - 3rd Battalion 05
Massachusetts Militia - 4th Battalion (Lights) 03
New York Regiment05
Total: 65 points +2 63

Table Layout:

When the point in the campaign was reached that DG and I realised we had a game on our hands the Berthier map was as follows:

Each of those Berthier squares equates to a foot on the wargame table so that equates to 6' by 8' and in the flesh it looked like this:

So, in the foreground of the picture we have the town of Carnine, occupying either side of an impassable river - the bridge provides the only crossing point. The river doesn't quite follow the Berthier map - I've used some artistic licence with the terrain tiles that I have available....

A close up of what the British faced at Carnine - trenches and redoubts in abundance!

Initial Dispositions:

Translating the last position from the Berthier campaign move we have the following considerations (and this is where campaigns come to the fore as a way of generating table top encounters, as there's no way any sane commander would agree to the position the American commander finds himself in!)

The contact square on the Berthier map comprised the American 1st and 2nd Militia regiments - you may remember that I had sent them out with a view to providing a handy flanking force, they were spotted, and I was bringing them back in Carnine when they were "jumped" by the main British force. This gives us our first compulsory dispositions - the American Militia then is in the first half of the 3rd terrain tile, as are most of the British. With a half troop of British cavalry to the east, and the rest of the British force to the south.

The rest of the American forces need to be placed in the town, and there are British reinforcements just arriving on the road at the "far end" of the table.
This how it was represented on the table - I think you can probably guess what the two lonely Militia regiments were thinking - to their right is the half squadron of British cavalry...
In the far distance is the second British force arriving on table.

...and so to battle:

This was a long and particularly bloody battle that in the end ran to 13 complete moves - just over two hours in real time.

Rather than bore you with a move by move recount of how the game transpired, however I thought I'd try and stick to the major engagements/events.

The game started with the British opening fire on the American Militia - as the moving player I got to fire second, so the response was not good as by that time most of the British regiments and artillery had managed to get their hits... suffice to say that the Militia (of course) did run, harried all the way by the British cavalry (rules note: in our rules, if your contacted while routing that's an automatic damage hit, and further rout ie. light cavalry heaven)

Having manned the trenches, and rolled the cannons in to the redoubts... ..the Americans were more than a little non-plussed to see the recoiling militia (see following) come streaming past - even with the assistance of their commanders I couldn't get them to stop and they disappeared over the bridge heading north!

The next phase was again with the British - the Americans had deployed on a fairly broad frontage - the good Continental infantry in the centre, their French allies on the left, and were sitting their waiting. They didn't have to wait long however, as DG ordered his four Brunswicker regiments (click here to find out why a dragoon regiment is attacking on foot!) to attack the right-most of the two redoubts..... four regiments of Brusnwick's finest failed to make it into the redoubt, though on at least two occasions one of the regiments was fighting bayonet to hand over the top of the earthworks themselves. See following as the first of the poor unfortunates made their way towards the guns...

While this was going on the Americans had pushed forward with their cavalry - whilst I did have a problem with pushing my infantry forward (out numbered badly I needed to stay near the town and earthworks) I had no compunction whatsoever about making the lives of the British infantry a little uncomfortable! Of the British units that had just finished attacking the militia then, the Brunswikers we've just heard about, but the rest of the force comprised British infantry (Frasers, and the 35th Foot the "Orange Lillies") and artillery - and DG was using those to form an attack on the trench line in the centre. Having seen the Highlanders cross the fence line, the American dragoons charged and in the subsequent melee (happily they managed to engage!) drove them off in rout with a bloody nose (and won the first battle honour of the game) Slightly later, Lausanne's Hussars did the same to the Lillies winning themselves the second battle honour of the game. See following for the American 4th Dragoons about to send Fraser's packing..

Unfortunately it all went badly wrong from this point as in withdrawing from the advancing British forces the cavalry was caught and badly cut up by the British cavalry and the advancing Welch Fusiliers.... both American cavalry regiments were sent packing, and following successive failed morale throws exited the field just behind the militia... oh, dear... (the picture at left shows Lausanne's being bashed by the "Death or Glory Boys") The good news was that the British attack in the centre never really materialised after this, and slowly fizzled out...

Which was just as well, as in the last phase, the British developed their biggest attack of the game on the American left. The attack included all the units that were arriving on the road at the beginning of the game - this comprised 4 regiments of foot (including the Prussians) and artillery. Using my artillery and the French to inflict the first casualties on the Prussians I shifted my Continentals to this flank and put in a charge with them and the French - repulsed! Things then went from bad to worse.. with no cavalry to protect my flanks and rear the British Dragoons hit the main lode, pure gold.... I can't tell you what mayhem those Dragoons caused as it's still painful now, but I reckon they probably accounted for at least 3 regiments of foot - as each routed they were attacked by those damned dragoons who just kept attacking and attacking - it was a bit like a sheep dog with a flock! See following for a sight of France's finest being badly treated by the British horse who by the end of it had hustled almost all of those routing units to near destruction (and in the process win the third battle honour of the game

By the time I'd managed to get enough units together to face off the British horse, both sides were exhausted with little in the way of fresh units. Both commanders agreed to the draw - I had little or no fresh troops, and DG who had slightly more, didn't fancy facing those earthworks again...!

..and there you have it - a very bloody encounter!

Post Match Analysis:
  • Losses were fairly even - the Americans had lost 30 strength points (and a regular regiment comes in at 5 SP's total in the rules I use) so a not insignificant loss! I seem to remember that the British had lost about 4 or 5 points more - a pretty good result given that they were the assaulting force.
  • Without a doubt the unit that turned it around for the British were the dragoons - they inflicted at least 10 or 12 of those damage points on the Americans. I trust DG is giving the horses an extra dose of oats!
  • One of the issues I had was being able to turn around quickly enough to face the horse - in the rules I play wheeling is done round a 3" diameter circle, and there is no "about face", getting your horse into the rear of the other army then is akin to getting your queen onto the back row in chess! I'm keen to ensure that manoeuvring is vaguely realistic, but I need to do some checking to see if about face was used... :o))
  • Another issue was that the British horse was only a half regiment - ie. one base... I can claim overlaps in a face to face scrap, but most of the time the British horse were hitting routing units - very frustrating, and there was much muttering of "it doesn't seem right" from yours truly! As a true exemplar of Old School wargaming however I give you the following exchange:

    StW: "Blimey, are we sure they can do that?" (as the British horse drive off yet another regiment in rout)
    DG: "Hmm, they are a bit destructive... if they were yours what would you do?"
    StW: "Exactly the same as you're doing - don't be foolish!" :o))
  • ..and finally, for those of you with an interest in such things - refreshments!Steve-the-Wargamer has changed to decaffeinated tea, which on this occasion was PG Tips (someone must have a wargame use for those little pyramids!) - just as well it was decaf as we drank a lot of it! The biscuits were Co-Op Chocolate Chip Cookies - and very nice they were too... there you have it - the campaign moves on - we have two moves to do to take account of the time the battle took, and then we need to consider consolidation, and I get to start thinking about reinforcements and how they can be introduced into the campaign for both sides....


  1. A perfect battle report (except for the outcome!) - thank you!

  2. Great battle report - tea and bickies sounds good too (although probably wise changing to decafe to help keep a cool head).


  3. Steve,

    Realizing that most "casualties" are not really even dead or wounded, but scattered, I use a simple mechanism for campaign games.

    I roll 1d6 for each lost stand (not whole unit). Depending upon how bloody we wish to make it, we might vary the number needed for a safe return.

    Typically the winning side gets stands back by rolling 3+; loser on a 4+. Thus about half of the loser's lost stands return; and about two thirds of the winner's . . . but sometimes the dice are very fickle.

    In addition, units that lost more than half of their stands need to make a die roll to keep from losing a morale grade; and units that got "wiped out" need to make a much tougher roll to keep from dropping.

    The rationale for this is that scattered troops keep filtering back into camp after the battle's over . . . and the winner gets a better chance because they are (generally at least) in possession of the battlefield.

    The further rationale is that troops that got mauled and scattered have a good chance of having lost some of their elan.

    Perhaps this would help.

    -- Jeff

  4. Nice report Steve. I still have a soft spot for Minifigs although I've not bought/used any for years!


  5. Very nice battle report, though I do have one question. With a draw, that means the British remain outside the town and the Americans retain possession since the British had no wish to assault the redoubts again, correct?

    If you wanted to do something like Jeff's system, I'd probably give them equal chances of receiving returned troops to restore their regiments.

  6. I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the report and the photos. Good work, Steve.

    And I agree with Jonathan . . . I'd give the Americans an equal (or better) shot at regaining the "lost" troops . . . after all, they held onto the land.

    -- Jeff

  7. Thanks for the messages all - appreciated...

    DG and I went to Colours today (UK wargame show) and on the way discussed the game further as is our wont. We decided that there should have been a fourth battle honour for the Brunswick regiment that had assaulted the trenches twice so let it be known that it is hereby granted.. :o)

    Jeff - bravo, sir! An excellent idea/plan and one I will investigate forthwith. While I do so, I think I might also check what Mr Grant & Featherstone have to say about it in their Campaign books..

  8. Wow! Now that is a proper AWI set-up. Lovely pics and report, Steve.

    Best wishes


  9. Well done! I can't honestly wish you luck Steve, as you are rebelling against your Monarch anointed by Reason, Tradition and Scripture to rule over you, but you do write a very engaging battle report.

  10. Great report lots of detail with excellent pics. After seeing your Lausun's Legion I will have to post up some of my French.

    How do you do the "tables" for your orbats?



  11. Frostydog - apologies for the delay in answering your question... w.r.t tables I always compose my posts in the HTML window of the post, rather than using the editor (which I don't like as it's a bit clunky). My background to this blog was a web page so I can do a bit of coding in HTML, and the tables are just one of them.. if you do a search on Google for "HTML Tables" you should be able to see a fair few tutorials on how to do it... but it's pretty easy (or I wouldn't be able to do it!).. alternatively, if you're an Internet Explorer user you can left click on the post and "view source". If you then scroll down to the table you can see the coding - best thing to do then is just copy it somewhere and start having a play with it...

    ...sorry it took so long to reply - busy busy busy.. :o))